The Great Game of Business folks recently hosted their annual open-book management conference with this year’s theme, “The Wisdom of the Crowd.”
The event has always been a great place to learn from other open-book practitioners, and this year’s event took that experience to a new level. The opening keynote speaker, James Surowiecki, spoke about his book, “The Wisdom of Crowds,” which discusses how the wisdom of a crowd can outweigh the wisest person within the crowd. I was conflicted.
How can the average of a group of numbers (contributors) yield a greater result than that of the highest number in the group?
This was the most controversial, hard-to-understand concept that seemed to severely oppose my traditional, mathematical thinking.
When in Doubt, Consult
The first thing I found myself doing was consulting with one of my mentors, a behavioral psychologist. I explained to him the proposed concepts of the book, and he was so intrigued that he wanted to read more. One week later, I received the insights that confirmed his status as a mentor. In order for the team (crowd) to deliver collective intelligence higher than the smartest person, the team needs to have a common purpose!
Here is his example:
Consider a group of six strangers on an elevator. If you asked them a question, and solicited independent or collective responses, the results may not be so intuitive. If you then turned off the power to the elevator between two floors, and asked the team how to solve this predicament, you would have seen a group working together collectively to find the most viable solution to a safe exit from the elevator. They now have a common goal.
As a Leader, You Need to Provide This
Considering the power and potential of a better, more creative, “out of the box” idea as a result of the collective wisdom of the crowd, leaders would need to provide the team with:
- A common goal
- A true commitment to genuine collaboration
- Players who embrace the concept of teamwork
- An atmosphere that encourages creative brainstorming, where there are no bad ideas
- A desire to solve, plan and project a path to moving forward
A common goal can be a vision, cause, challenge, competition to win and/or a desire to improve. The common goal should always provide some clear direction to the expectations and results.
Effective collaboration will take time as well as considering everyone on the team is equal in his/her potential to contribute. Without contemplating all ideas, you are not truly collaborating. If you ask for opinions and don’t consider their ideas, you may find yourself not getting any more ideas from those folks.
We have all worked with teams that demonstrate trust, openness, cooperation and unity.
Creativity and brainstorming can be a challenge to traditional thinkers/decision makers. Getting out of your comfort zone and encouraging “out of the box” thinking will take some effort. Ask a nontraditional thinker to facilitate the exercise.
The concepts of living in solution, taking the focus of the team away from blame and hashing out the past will be better served if you can challenge the team to improve and/or enhance your future vision.
In summary, grasping and executing these concepts will require a commitment to be humble, hold back the egos and attempt to listen more (and better). The results you experience will definitely provide you with higher quality options for your future.
Good luck in your pursuit of “Harnessing the Wisdom” of YOUR crowd.